BLACK PANTHER – WAKANDA FOREVER: review
Necessarily moving, this sequel to BLACK PANTHER disappoints, however, with its outrageous use of digital technology and certain issues already seen.
By bringing the adventures of the first African superhero – created by Marvel in the 1960s – to the big screen, Ryan Coogler lived up to the political significance of Black Panther. The stakes of his film proved to be more complex, more nuanced than all-coming comic-book movies, orchestrating the confrontation of two ideologies animating black communities and their fight against white supremacy: one pacifist, even recessive, a barely distorted reflection of the thoughts of Martin Luther King, embodied in T’Challa’s inclusive regency; the other offensive, in the wake of Malcolm X, embodied by Killmonger’s ‘Black Power’. For the first time in a Marvel film, the viewer could understand the motivations, even take the side, of the antagonist and in the end, the superhero found himself profoundly changed by his interaction with the “villain” of the film. Thus Wakanda, hitherto hidden and isolated, took a full place in global geopolitics, T’Challa now decided to put the fortune of his country at the service of oppressed populations.
Four years later, Chadwick Boseman is no longer there and Ryan Coogler, whose relationship to this second film must be particularly ambiguous, has opted for anger and disavowal. T’Challa died of a sudden illness. Shuri, his sister and éminence grise of Wakanda, could not save him. Wakanda, now in the hands of Ramonda, T’Challa’s mother, becomes the prey of many countries wishing to get their hands on vibranium. Seeing in the death of Black Panther, the deep mourning in which Wakanda is plunged and this new female governance signs of weakness, the West, misguided, is particularly aggressive in its desire to plunder African wealth. What make Wakandans regret having opened up to the world. While foreign forces manage to detect Vibranium underground, it is another hidden people who find themselves in danger: that of Namor, the great strength of this WAKANDA FOREVER (especially since the performance of Tenoch Huerta is impressive in intensity) and its greatest weakness. Because Namor, king of the depths, will make Wakanda the target of all his ire. Arbitrary trigger, even gratuitous, he turns to Ramonda to give him an ultimatum: as it is because of T’Challa that his kingdom is attacked (it is debatable), he gives the Wakandans the choice to join him and its people to destroy the rest of the world, or else it will turn against them first and cause the downfall of Wakanda. Shuri, whose grief has turned to despair, is not completely indifferent to Namor’s story. He comes from a Mesoamerican people of the 16th century, devastated by the diseases imported by the colonists. Namor’s mother “was human, until she became something else”. He was born under the sea, in Talokan, the underwater city created by his people. A long sequence from WAKANDA FOREVER explains the childhood of this sad boy, strong in the water, hated by Catholics on earth. Sublime piece of cinema, where we finally find the poetic and fierce gaze of Ryan Coogler.
What a pity: prisoner of the political nuances in which his films must bathe, Ryan Coogler wrote a villain whose motivations are the same as those of Killmonger – without however the truly Shakespearean dimension – for similar issues and a “hero / hero” conflict. antagonist” with complexities close to those of the first film – with the notable difference that the impact of this confrontation on the very philosophy of the Wakandans will be, spoiler alert, close to zero. The spectator then maintains a very conflicting relationship with this villain. Little involved in the confrontation at the heart of the film, even a little disillusioned by this impression of copy/paste, we are nevertheless hypnotized by each of the appearances of Namor and his fighters. Each time raised by a visionary theme by Ludwig Goransson – whose score is worth much more than all the pop songs that awkwardly pepper the film but will ensure the success of the soundtrack on sale for a few days – each of their scenes immerses the film in a fascinating spirituality, brutality and mysticism. As soon as WAKANDA FOREVER is linked to History, traditions, legends, it is strong with the sincerity of Ryan Coogler, with his entire emotions, with this perspective forged in auteur cinema. As soon as the film stops to debate, discuss, wonder, it is carried by the political point of view, the strength of character and the deep questions of its director. As soon as WAKANDA FOREVER is a superhero movie, it falls apart.
The spectacular nature of the first BLACK PANTHER relied little on digital imagery. Apart from the underground fight scene between Killmonger and Black Panther, not readable and thankless, the special effects were of quality but it was above all the authenticity and the humility of the story, the care given to the sets, the costumes , to the “world building” of Wakanda which ensured the spectacular. The effect of surprise passed, Marvel tries to impress with this second part, by spreading the screen with failed SFX – only the aquatic effects are successful. Between a Wakandan ship and outfits straight out of X-OR, action scenes that seem to have been shot in a 20m studio2 (reminiscent of the end of CIVIL WAR and its pitched battle in a parking lot), excruciating green screens, the film suffers from all the symptoms of the modern blockbuster disease. Among the worst: the forced transplant to the MCU, with the painful and hasty introduction of Ironheart – whose series dedicated to him will soon land on Disney + – and the not funny humor of the famous “comic relief”, role entrusted to the best character of BLACK PANTHER, Okoye (Danai Gurira), who has become a fortiori one of the worst. Whatever the title disputes with her, Aneka, played in cringe mode by Michaela Coel, yet one of the most charismatic Dora Milaje in comics.
There was most likely the fear that this BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER would be too serious, too sad for the general public. No doubt most of the tears shed in the film by Shuri, Okoye or Nakia thinking of T’Challa are the tears shed by Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o thinking of Chadwick Boseman. While MCU fans were shocked by the actor’s death—as were anyone who simply loves movies—it’s probably not the role of a Marvel blockbuster to mourn its hero for 2:42 and to knock down the fourth wall at this point. However, despite the commercial imperatives, Ryan Coogler managed to make the film a mass, a moving ceremony of remembrance. That the Marvel logo is comprised only of Boseman’s face, that the film ends in a minute of near-silence illustrated with brief sequences of BLACK PANTHER, the tribute is solemn. The actor is missing – and not just because Letitia Wright isn’t quite up to the task. He is missing and at the same time, his absence reminds us that the Marvel fortress, bulldozer of Hollywood, is permeable to pain and flaws. It’s a sad movie, because BLACK PANTHER 2 couldn’t live up to BLACK PANTHER. All the money in the world couldn’t do anything about it.
By Ryan Coogler. With Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira. United States. 2h42. Released November 9